Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Developer plans 400 homes on farmland just outside village

A DEVELOPER wants to build another 241 homes in Benson — less than six months

A DEVELOPER wants to build another 241 homes in Benson — less than six months after being given planning permission for 159 properties.

Graeme Dodd and architects WestWaddy can start work on the development of 107 houses and 52 retirement flats and bungalows on farmland north of Littleworth Road after winning a planning appeal following a public inquiry earlier this year.

News of the second application was revealed at a meeting of Benson Parish Council last week and is likely to cause widespread concern in the village.

Residents had predicted that if the original application was agreed then it would pave the way for more development.

Council vice-chairman Jon Fowler said a meeting with WestWaddy took place earlier this month to discuss the provision of community facilities by the developer.

“However, they informed us they’re going to be putting in an application for an additional 241 houses on the Littleworth site,” he said. “They’re aiming to do that immediately after a public meeting on November 6.”

Councillor Fowler said he hoped to arrange a meeting with Paula Fox, development manager at South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, to get her view on a bigger development.

He said: “That number of additional houses would clearly have an impact on services such as the doctors, schools and roads, and we would need to ensure these services are able to cope with an increase in the number of people and vehicles. 

“Thames Water would also need to consider any additional housing as there are already concerns about the capacity of the foul waste water systems to cope with current demand. During the severe wet weather of 2014 drains overflowed, causing raw sewage to overflow from the system.”

Amanda Jacobs, a senior planner for WestWaddy, confirmed the company planned to submit an application.

She said leaflets had been sent out to residents in order to generate feedback before the meeting and exhibition of plans at Benson parish hall.

The plans would show what community facilities could be provided as a result of any development.

Mrs Jacobs said: “We’re looking at providing additional housing at the site along with some community facilities and an improved transport infrastructure for the village. If planning permission is granted for a further 241 houses that is a substantial increase but Benson will remain a village.!

She said she had taken a “few” calls from people concerned about more homes.

The Bensington Society, a conservation group, said it would object to the latest application.

Planning committee member Martyn Spence said: “The primary school has no room for further expansion — 400 houses will lead to a substantial number of children so the school might become an important issue. It has no physical area other than taking over the church trust’s playing field.”

He said the capacity of the Mill Stream doctor’s surgery would also need to be considered. “It’s a huge development compared with anything else in the village,” added Mr Spence.

Dave Rushton, who lives in Littleworth Road and chairs the traffic advisory group, said: “A lot of us thought it was, to some degree, inevitable. Never mind just Littleworth, it’s too much for the whole village. I think there are just going to be too many cars on the road.”

He said villagers were “stunned” that WestWaddy had come back with its plans so quickly.

“We knew we were going to get 160 and people had just about braced themselves for that but more now has come as a big shock,” he said.

Mr Dodd, whose father-in-law Ray Stiles owns the 24.8-hectare field, submitted a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council in March last year.

Almost 150 residents responded with letters of objection, as did the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The district council failed to make a decision on the application within three months so Mr Dodd appealed.

Just weeks before the planning inquiry, he reduced the number of proposed houses from 125 to 107.

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